Orca delight viewers on shore

By Amy Shanks

1 comment
A pod of Orca delighted onlookers. Photo/Christoph Henrichsen
A pod of Orca delighted onlookers. Photo/Christoph Henrichsen

A pod of about seven orca entertained crowds as they dipped and dived in the shallow waters off Ahuriri yesterday, before heading out of sight in the direction of Bay View.

Shop owner Hayley Stuart-Malcolm was driving to work in Ahuriri when she saw black fins on the water's surface and pulled over for a closer look about 9.45am.

"There were so many of them, I thought someone was pulling a prank because they were so close and they were huge," she said.

As Mrs Stuart-Malcolm was videoing the scene, more people gathered to watch and snap photos of the creatures frolicking in the waves.

One or two of whales came in further and were more visible than the rest.

"There was a really big one at the back that stayed out but some were in the shallows. You could see all the rocks around them," she said.

"You could probably have stood mid-thigh and been able to reach out and touch them."

In the 10-15 minutes she was watching, they travelled from Napier Port to Hot Chick and Cool Cat, before rounding a corner and out of sight.

Orca had also been sighted on Friday morning at Bay View and Westshore Beach.

Orca Research Trust founder and principal scientist Ingrid Visser said the two groups were probably separate and were likely to have been hunting stingrays. "It's totally normal, typical behaviour. New Zealand's orca population are internationally recognised for coming into shallow water," she said. "It isn't unusual for them to be in under 2 metres of water. It's also why New Zealand has the highest rate of orca stranding - about one a year. It might not seem like a lot but, if you compare that to Australia, they average one every 14 years along their expansive coastline."

After watching the video Mrs Stuart-Malcolm uploaded to Facebook, Dr Visser was 80 per cent sure that a large whale in the foreground was a male known as Funky Monkey. "He got the name because he has a funky fin that flops around."

An important part of her job was to record their activity and she called on the public to help.

"They can contribute to what's called citizen science, sending in photos, or calling to let us know what they have seen. We can get back to them and explain a bit about the orca."

It was also vital for people to report any strandings to the Orca Research Trust immediately.

To report sightings or strandings, please contact Dr Visser and her team on 0800 733 6722. Sightings can also be reported on the Department of Conservation's website.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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